Booker proposes drastic Newark budget cuts, warns tax hikes would increase foreclosures

By David Jones | July 21, 2010 03:00PM

Newark Mayor Cory Booker

Newark Mayor Cory Booker proposed a draconian series of emergency cuts,
including a four-day work week, cutting off all non-essential contracts
and the closing of city pools, to help fill a $70 million hole in the
city budget.

Speaking from his Newark City Hall office today, Booker warned
that property tax hikes would cause foreclosures to soar, noting that
2,500 city homeowners have already missed a mortgage payment.

“I will not allow a $70 million budget hole to be filled by
taxes,” said Booker, who argued that a new tax increase could devastate
local property owners, push renters out of their homes and drive away
new businesses opening shop in Newark.

Booker said the city council should reconsider its opposition
to a proposal to create a municipal utilities authority that would
manage the New Jersey city’s water supply, and allow Newark to raise
tens of millions of dollars in the first budget year through the
issuance of new bonds.

A tax increase, on the other hand, would have serious economic impacts on the local economy, he warned.

Booker’s budget, proposed in late June, called for a 7 percent increase
in property taxes, about 650 job cuts and budget cuts for the Newark
Public Library and Newark Museum. Booker said taxes would go even
higher if the utilities authority is rejected.

Booker said that under the proposed cuts, every non-essential city
contractor would be given a 30-day notice to terminate services. And
starting Aug. 2, the city could halt a number of programs, including
closing municipal pools and end Camp Watershed, a day camp for Newark
kids in West Milford, N.J., where the city owns thousands of acres of
nature trails and other green space at the Pequannock watershed.

Most drastically, the cuts would result in a four-day work week
starting Sept. 27, resulting in a 20 percent pay cut for all
non-emergency employees.